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Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

posted Nov 15, 2014, 8:03 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Nov 15, 2014, 8:09 AM ]
This popular Christian hymn was written in 1844 by Rev. Henry Alford for the English harvest festivals, a movable feast varying with the harvest time in the various villages. It later gained popularity in the United States as part of Thanksgiving celebrations.

Through the years it’s been revised and reduced from its original seven verses to today’s popular version of four. While the first chiefly celebrates the harvest, calling people to give thanks for it, the last three deal with the theme of final harvest in the judgment of the world as paralleled in The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat (Mt 13:24-30) and The Parable of the Seed Growing of Itself (Mk 4:26-29).

It’s almost exclusively sung to the tune ST GEORGE'S WINDSOR. Its composer, Sir George Elvey, served as organist for forty-seven years at the historic, royal chapel at Windsor Castle in England and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1871, for his many years of faithful service to the royal family as well as for his various musical publications. He originally composed this hymn tune in 1858 for the text Hark! the Song of Jubilee. But by 1861, it appeared “wedded” to Come, Ye Thankful People, Come in the Anglican Church hymnal, and has since found a place in nearly every published hymnal. He’s also the composer of DIADEMATA, which we sing as Crown Him With Many Crowns.

It’s been recorded many times, including Mario Lanza’s in the 1940s and a popular one by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But one of my favorites is an instrumental version from The Steeple on the Common 2. This is a collection of “familiar hymns and melodies performed on traditional instruments in the spirit of old New England.”